Thursday, June 7, 2007

Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis was the last "Expressionist" film and Caligari The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari the first. And M was the first new objectivity film.
Die Nibelungen.
Truly an interesting use of mirror filming with sections scratched out that gave the moving real image as the mirror reflected back a picture of a model. Multiple shot photography was done inside the camera. That definitely took a lot of planning and patience to get the image just right-from experience.

Hitler after watching Metropolis, wanted Lang to create the Nationalist Socialist Cinema. In 1933, Goebbels talked directly to Lang and offered him head of the German film industry. He said he never wanted to return to Germany and left for Paris and then 9 months to the USA. Good man!

While Fritz Lang's gargantuan Metropolis may have nearly bankrupted UFA, the film forever enriched the lexicon of the cinema. Adapted from a novel by Lang's wife Thea Von Harbou, Metropolis combines the director's awe upon experiencing the hugeness of the New York City skyline with an H.G.Wellsian glance into the future (though Wells himself despised the film). In the year 2000, the wealthy ruling class lives in towering luxury skyscrapers, while slave laborers monotonously toil away far below ground level. The hero, Freder (Gustav Frohlich), is the pampered son of Fredersen (Alfred Abel), one of the most egregious of the fat-cat rulers. Freder is reformed when he meets Maria (Brigitte Helm), the loveliest of the subterrenean dwellers. Travelling incognito below ground, Freder, appalled by the laborers' squalid living conditions, immediately begins campaigning for humanitarian reforms. Evil industrialist Rottwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) can't let this happen, so he plots to turn the slaves against the reformers. In his neon-dominated laboratory, Rottwang creates a robot in the image of Maria, designed as a false prophet to lead the rabble astray (Brigitte Helm is astonishing as she alternates between the Madonna-like "real" Maria and the wild-eyed, hedonistic android). After a destructive uprising and an underground flood of Biblical proportions, the despotic Fredersen sees the light, and agrees in the future to treat the working class with equanimity and compassion.The eye-poppingly realistic miniatures in Metropolis are the handiwork of the brilliant Eugene Shuftan, whose eponymous technical process would soon be adopted in America.
When it was premiered in Germany in January of 1927, Metropolis ran 153 minutes when projected at 24 frames per second. That complete version was heavily cut for release in America, removing a quarter of the movie: one whole personal conflict (and a centerpiece of the original plot) between the industrialist Fredersen (Alfred Abel) and the inventor Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) over a woman; a subplot involving double-dealing, espionage, and the mysterious "Thin Man"; a section taking place in the "red-light" district of the city; a good deal of the symbolism in the movie's original dialogue; and a large chunk of the chase at the end. In Germany in the spring of 1927, an edited version modeled roughly on the American edition, though running slightly longer, was prepared and released, and that became the "standard" version of the movie, for both domestic (i.e. German) distribution and export. In subsequent years, other editions were circulated and still others were found deposited in various archives; in a surprising number of instances -- including that of a source stored at the Museum of Modern Art in New York -- there were tiny fragments to be found of the lost, longer version of Metropolis. The movie's reputation was compromised with the lapsing of its American copyright in 1953, after which countless copies and duplicates, in every format from 8 mm to 35 mm (and, later, VHS tape and DVD) came to be distributed in the U.S. by anyone who could lay their hands on a print, of whatever quality and with whatever music track they chose (or didn't choose) to put on it. Various restorations of the movie were attempted over the decades by responsible parties, as well. The BBC did a very effective one in the mid-'70s that was a hit on public television in America, utilizing an electronic music track that sometimes mimicked some of the industrial images on the screen. Also, there was the Giorgio Moroder version from 1984, heavily tinted and not too well assembled, with an idiotic rock score. ~ Hal Erickson, All Movie Guide

While interesting thoughts come from a film such as this, the whole thing looked like a cheap stage set. Even the supposedly heavy doors have a certain bounce to them.

To the new Tower of Babel-to my father-!

The film has a strong religious theme through the film including one room that had a collection of Crosses behind a podium.
"And on the top of the tower we will write the words: Great is the world and its Creator! And great is Man!"
...but the minds that had conceived the Tower of Babel cound not build it. The task was too great. So they hired hands for wages.

Evil bastards. Actually they show slaves in the next scene.
One man's hymns of praise became other men's curses.

The following phrase begins the destruction of the central machine that then floods the town.
Who told you to attack the machines, you idiots? Without them you'll all die!!

If not for the heroic acts of the good people then all the children of the Metropolis would have perished.

Plenty of extra features:
An interesting fact came out that since the German Mark was nearly worthless, then movie production flourished since it could be sold internationally since they were silent language became less of an issue. Also since the terms of trade was so bad (against Germany) other countries did not enter the German market.

Poster on walls in Berlin:
Berlin, your dancer is Death."

And it ends with:
The mediator between brain and hands must be the heart!

No comments: